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Generally favorable reviews- based on 146 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 21 out of 146

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  1. Sep 1, 2014
    An inspiring story of epic proportions that isn't quite as grand as it makes itself out to be. Notable performances from Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda; however, the talented cast doesn't quite pull off the individuals which they portray.
  2. Aug 4, 2014
    This film received a lot of praise and flack from the critics, but when you get down to it, its a simple story of a man who has lived through many eras of black oppression. I was blown away by the star appearances and it is a grand reminder to us all of the strife people faced throughout the civil rights movement.
  3. Aug 1, 2014
    Lee Daniels' The Butler es una película que tiene una historia muy interesante con buenas actuaciones por parte de todos los actores, en general es una buena película de drama.
  4. Jul 14, 2014
    This is a well done movie. I am going to be honest......I actually almost cried during this movie. It was really touching,as you had characters that you care about and a wonderful story. A really good film that I like
  5. May 3, 2014
    Rarely does a film come along that gets every element of history in it so precise and accurate as the 'Lee Daniel's The Butler' does.

    "Lee Daniel's The Butler"-- originally called "The Butler", but changed after a brouhaha with copyright claims-- is a masterpiece. Lee Daniels (Precious) directs with such certainty of the material he brings to the screen that you forget these are actors
    in a movie. Speaking of that, each and every cast member did a good job here. I especially liked Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan and Liev Schreiber as LBJ.

    This movie mixed drama, wit, and humor into a smart script by Danny Strong that never felt forced or ill-conceived. The acting was tremendous, with an Oscar-worthy performance by Forest Whitaker. And, to my surprise, Oprah was actually very good as an actress in this movie! I mean, to be honest, I didn't know what to expect when I heard Oprah would be in this film!

    Overall, the film went through each time period and showed events with real emotion, accuracy, and thoroughness. This is a great film that could also be labeled as a historical biopic.
  6. Apr 26, 2014
    I somehow was unable to see this movie while it was in the local cinema. I bought home from Red Box and watched it with my 94 year white southern mother. We both enjoyed the film immensely. There is so many films that are such a waste of time and money, this is not one of those. The film does a brilliant job in the time allotted of showing the continuum of historic events that "The Butler" live through with his family. Expand
  7. Mar 13, 2014
    A fair movie with good performance by Forrest Whitaker. Unfortunately it is another attempt at fanning the racist fire. President Reagan was not a racist in my opinion.
  8. Mar 6, 2014
    i love forest whitaker in this great movie . it tells compasion and sort of like 12 years of slave . and it is very great to learn about what its like and see and feels what its like how someone who live in south had to deal with the way they where treating with .
  9. Feb 15, 2014
    This movie deserves praise just because Forest Whitaker carries the film so nobly and gracefully in his role of the fictitious butler, Cecil Gaines. It is too bad that the producers saw fit to so drastically change the story of the real-life butler, Eugene Allen, who served in the White House for 34 years until his retirement in 1986. I'm sure his story would have been fascinating enough without trying to fit in the history of the civil rights movement in the background. In any event, the film did not do justice to the long and complicated story of the civil rights movement. I'm not sure any fictional film could do it justice. From 1987 to 1990, PBS broadcast a 14-hour documentary on the civil rights movement, entitled Eyes on the Prize. I would think fourteen hours is the minimum to cover such a complicated and lengthy subject area.

    It was interesting to note Robin Williams in the role of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Cusack in the role of Richard Nixon, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan (with Jane Fonda as Mrs. Reagan). The make-up and the similarity to the real presidents were remarkable; nevertheless every famous actor was clearly recognizable and there was the risk of the film almost becoming parody. Vanessa Redgrave and Mariah Carey have small roles. Also surprising, Oprah Winfrey, as the wife of Cecil Gaines, making a comeback for the first time in years in a truly dramatic role in a feature film. She is perhaps too famous and too much a familiar face to turn up as a fictional character in a film. When the film did a little montage of television programs to speed up time and show how African-Americans became influential icons of fashion, music, and dance, I almost expected to see a snippet from an Oprah Winfrey show. The real Oprah had to be omitted given the circumstances, but she should have been there.

    There were some interesting moments, such as Martin Luther King (Nelsan Ellis) explaining that the role of the black domestic was actually an extremely important role in black American history because of the trust and closeness that developed between white employer and black employee, which in fact went against all racial stereotypes. In the film, King concludes that the role of the black domestic was in fact the role of the subversive, an interesting take on the menial domestic positions blacks were forced into for so many decades.

    In spite of the film's flaws, there are not many quality films that give so many black actors such a wonderful opportunity to both strut their stuff and to document black suffering in America at the same time.
  10. Jan 17, 2014
    Even though most of the events in this film were greatly exaggerated from the actual events of the man who inspired the film, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” tells an engaging and dramatic story and is overflowing with talent from an exceptional cast.
  11. Jan 16, 2014
    Lee Daniels’ enterprising biographic saga of Cecil Gaines (Whitaker), a black White House butler who serves eight presidents (based on a true story), was a substantial Box Office triumph back in October, and the talking point converges on its all-star cast, in particular the varying presidents and historic personages’ impersonation and an Oscar-baiting role for Oprah Winfrey’s big screen return, 15 years after BELOVED (1998).

    I’m not a naysayer of Daniel’s sordid THE PAPERBOY (2012, 6/10), but his trademark sepia-tone does precipitates the visual fatigue in spite of its retrospective homage, and the sketchy account of different presidents comes shortchanged as trite and uninspiring. The mainstay, nevertheless, is undeviatingly unraveled around Cecil’s dissidence against his radical son Louis (Oyelowo), underpinned by a very Oparhesque slap during an inopportune family dinner, until the belated conciliation. Cecil’s reserved discretion stems from his childhood trauma in the southern cotton field, but fortuitously he is discovered by an obnoxious officer to work in the White House (this part is schematized hastily and deficient of rationality, it must be more rigid procedures to be recruited as a staff there).

    So infused with the prerogative of serving the most powerful men in the country and a decent lifestyle, Cecil involuntarily leans on a more conservative slant of the equity movement for black folks, since most presidents he serves hold a strong attitude to change the status quo, he cannot understand why his son cannot be a bit patient but it is another lay of the land out of his comfy home; Louis is a foolhardy fighter, but he has a perspicuous mind, chooses to leave before he is immersed too deep into the Black Panther fanatic. It is not that all these happenings aren’t inviting, but in the film, Daniels only skims on the surfaces of the phenomenon, it is certainly a too wide time span and too many ramifications for one film to entail both comprehensively and attentively.

    Whitaker is brilliant and the MVP here, an ideal husband, a conscientious butler and an apolitical observer, underplays his character with subtle nuances, his two different facades, although the script dare not give him too much to handle just as life should be, his presence is a spectacle to watch. Oyelowo, a rising star deserves more leading roles, is another praiseworthy member from the bulky cast, while Winfrey’s part, is no Monique in PRECIOUS (2009, 8/10), a pedestrian housewife with alcohol problem scarcely has anything new to offer. What are the remainders after the transient merry-go-around of star-popping? I guess for me it is John Cusack’s fake nose and Cuba Gooding Jr.’s smug-face, and the film itself is an underachieved FORREST GUMP (1994, 9/10) wannabe.
  12. Jan 16, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Affermare che la montagna ha partorito il topolino potrà essere banale, ma il modo di dire viene subito in mente dopo aver assistito a questa fiera delle occasioni sprecate. Il racconto della vita di Cecil Gaines, dalle piantagioni di cotone degli anni Venti dove la schiavitù non era ancora finita all’elezione di un presidente nero, era sulla carta interessante perché consente di raccontare la difficile strada verso la parità della gente di colore attraverso gli occhi di un uomo che passa la maggior parte del suo tempo fra i bianchi, anzi nel cuore stesso del loro potere, la Casa Bianca. Cresciuto sottomesso e con una professione che richiede discrezione e invisibilità, Cecil si fa scorrere addosso la vicenda storica della ribellione della sua gente nella quale si infila invece con convinzione il figlio Louis che ne paga le conseguenze nei confronti della legge (botte e prigione) e del padre, che gli sarà per lungo tempo lontano. Ispirato a una figura realmente esistita, il protagonista è una brava persona che lavora sodo ed è attaccata alla famiglia, ma che fa carriera sottomettendosi e non ribellandosi per poi accorgersi troppo tardi che nella sua vità ci poteva essere spazio per qualcosa di più. Ecco, da tutto questo po’ po’ di spunti, il regista Lee Daniels e lo sceneggiatore Danny Strong ricavano un film quasi del tutto piatto dal punto di vista emozionale (la cosa più appassionante è, di gran lunga, il trailer) per colpa anche di una struttura troppo frammentata fatta di brevi momenti che qua e là tendono a ripetersi, come nel rapporto tra Gaines e la moglie Gloria. Non sempre è efficace neppure lo sfruttamento dei momenti topici che si intrecciano alla vita di Cecil: gli assassinii di Kennedy e Martin Luther King sono poco più che accennati e l’esistenza di un secondo figlio, Charlie, sembra servire solo a indicare che, ah sì, c’è stata anche la guerra del Vietnam. Le amnesie (clamorosa l’assenza di Malcolm X, citato di passaggio in una battuta) e le distorsioni storiche del cinema statunitense non hanno mai impedito di fare dei bei film, ma qui la visione è abbastanza superficiale da far sì che, ad esempio, i presidenti sembrino un po’ tutti uguali: apprezzabile la scelta di non ricercare la somiglianza a tutti i costi, ma restano figure bidimensionali con la sola eccezione del Nixon un po’ troppo affezionato alla bottiglia di John Cusack. L’attore è solo uno dei tanti che appaiono solo pochi minuti in un cast davvero esagerato che va da Robin Williams (Eisenowher) ad Alan Rickman (Reagan) e da Vanessa Redgrave (la padrona del piccolo Cecil) a Jane Fonda (probabilmente la migliore nell’impersonare un’energica Nancy Reagan), mentre un po’ più di spazio lo hanno Cuba Gooding Jr e Lenny Kravitz nei panni degli amici e colleghi del protagonista. La prestazioni degli attori è, comunque, la nota più positiva del film e questo vale soprattutto per i ruoli principali. Un dimagrito Forest Whitaker dimostra anche con Cecil Gaines di essere un interprete assai sottovalutato e, accanto a lui, Oprah Winfrey dà vita a Gloria con sorprendente gusto e sensibilità, costretta prima a sopportare le assenze del marito e poi a cercare di mediare tra lui e il figlio (David Oyelowo). Sono loro che, dando profondità ai rapporti interfamiliari igrazie a scene in cui anche la scrittura è più efficace, attirano comunque l’attenzione dello spettatore: certo, se il film terminasse con la presa di coscienza di Cecil sarebbe meglio, ma la pleonastica coda obamiana (che pure odora un po’ di propaganda) ha un suo senso nella chiusura di una fase storica in cui sono vissute e si sono confrontate due anime all’interno della comunità nera degli Stati Uniti. Forse un giorno qualcuno ci racconterà tale confronto con più efficacia, ora possiamo accontentarci di questo elegante (buona la fotografia di Andrew Dunn, incalzante la partitura di Rodrigo Leão) ma un po’ prolisso bigino Expand
  13. Jan 16, 2014
    Lee Daniels' The Butler is an emotional ride through the great character scope of its lead. It has an uneven narrative between father and son, but strong performances and emotion more than makes up for that.
  14. Jan 13, 2014
    You can call it as this year's 'The Help'. This historical drama speaks about an Afro-American orphan kid, which is loosely based on a real person's story. The movie looked more like a television movie than a silver screen movie, but somehow worked very well for me. A man's journey passing through different generation about 90 years of life was remarkably showed in this 2 hours cinema.

    The movie focuses on a white house butler called Cecil Gaines. His journey from a farmland to he become a most notable butler who witness changing presidents for the times. Not only it describes his story, but also the historical events that happened in his time during the services he provide for the house. It totally blew me away to know a man who saw vast changes in history, from black people's slavery to become a president of the new world. It is a rare kinda movie like the movie 'Benjamin Button', I loved it.

    From the director who gave impressive 'Precious' has made this movie as well and proved his skills for the second time. The transformation of the period of times from one to another was really well cinematiced. You might require to be watched other movies about Martin Luther King, JFK, Nixon, Vietnam war et cetera to understand the other side of the story other than from Cecil's perspective of history. It was just a thought I am giving you, so this movie will work for those who got no knowledge about those stuffs. Definitely it will be one of a prominent movie in the career for both, Forest Whitake as well the director.
  15. Jan 9, 2014
    The Butler is a very touching and easy to follow movie, because despite it treats a difficult topic like racism in the US, it is shown in a simple way, reduced to a family and the job of the father. The interesting thing is how similar is this film with the previous one of Lee Daniels, Precious. In both movies the protagonist fights between three worlds, Precious was debating with her traumatic past, the inescapable present and the fantastic other reality where she is a star. Here Cecil lives between his job as a butler, where he only serves and never talk or react to the opinion of white people; his home life, where his wife feels abandoned and his child has revolutionary thoughts; and all the movements against racist practices that starts all over the country. Another topic that deserves to be mentioned is how this picture evaluates two forms of changing the world and point out that if you want to accomplish something you must be open to other possibilities even if is necessary to go back on ones word and recognize an error. Add to all these, a magnificent performances of Whitaker and Oprah, thrilling action sequences, elaborated script, a great direction; and you get an amazing film. But what it lacks in the story (in contrast to Precious) is more shocking reality and a best use of the illumination, music and camera. Expand
  16. Jan 7, 2014
    O filme se ergue graças a boa atuação de Forest Whitaker, que leva o filme nas costas
  17. Dec 26, 2013
    The main character is nice and passive, but there is nothing more to him. Trying to build this grand story around him wasn't very necessary because he did absolutely nothing. If you want to tell the evolution of African Americans fight for justice this was not the way to go about it. The cast is so large that you either forget half of them or only remember them for their amateur performances. There isn't much to hate about this film, but it just didn't have anything to say that felt worthwhile. Expand
  18. Dec 24, 2013
    Just got around to seeing ‘Lee Daniel’s The butler’ and in short; it was a moderately entertaining picture, with a possible identity crisis. The movie arbitrarily shifts from being a history lesson on racism, a teaser with various presidential cameos and a moving family drama. With very good performances from Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oyelowo, it finds much success as a dynamic family drama; but the rest was a mixed bag. From the odd casting choices of the presidents to the haphazardly told story of 20th century racism in America, much of it just didn’t quite jell. However, I would like to stress on the quality of those performances, which carries this film up steep slope. That’s what largely made this a decent watch. Expand
  19. Dec 22, 2013
    What story did Lee Daniels want to tell? Instead of telling a personal story of the man Cecil and his family, Lee Daniels seemed to give us a history lesson of the 20th century that Cecil had nothing to do with. With so many characters and going back and forth between all the major events at the time, the movie loses its focus of telling an incredible journey.
  20. Nov 24, 2013
    This is a moving chronicle of a semi-fictionalized White House butler as seen through the civil rights movement. It has a fantastic montage (or maybe more like a series of intercut scenes) of the black staff at the White House and the Freedom Riders in Alabama. It was one of the more amazing intercut sequences I've seen. I teared up twice during this movie. Whitaker is great.

    This movie
    is also an over-the-top melodrama. It is so melodramatic that, even given the subject matter, I'm calling it melodramatic.

    So I think a 6 is about right.

    The movie is a biopic/history series of events, with a few threads tying it together. But given the subject matter, I can't really fault it for not having a more traditional structure or conventional dramatic arc. If you're interested in the premise, go see it.
  21. Nov 20, 2013
    Four words: So much wasted potential. First, the good. Whittaker was fantastic as always, as was the actor who played the older son. The cinematography is fantastic, and some scenes are extremely well done. The problem I had with this film was that it was actually two different films: the story of the real person on which this was based on(which is quite interesting without the fictionalization) and the Civil Rights epic with the story of the father and the son. Both would have been excellent films had they been done separately, but together, it just ends up an oscar-bait-y mess. The all-star casting feels way too gimmicky and doesn't really work (I mean, Oprah? Really? Plenty of talented actresses would kill for that role and would have done a far better job) Expand
  22. Nov 17, 2013
    Interminable plod through America's civil war movement seen through the experiences of a Butler serving several presidents over many years in the White House. The film cannot escape the feeling of being fake, trivialised and manufactured in its self important telling of an awful chapter in American History. It also feels very second hand with key events mostly being depicted via archive footage, mainly on a TV screen. Also, as soon as anything bad or dramatic happens the obligatory music kicks in for added impact often with that reliable crutch, the gospel choir at hand. This has the effect of producing schmaltz rather than gravitas.
    A starry cast, generally playing presidents or first ladies to mixed success, give a cough and a spit and are gone. However, anyone expecting (as I did) for this to be a more serious expose of White house politics will be sorely disappointed. This is first and foremost about the Butler and his family. The film has a lot to say potentially, but ultimately, due to the story's priorities very little is actually said. Forrest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey are undeniably good, but this is Oscar bait work to be sure. For a really natural and un self conscious performance just watch the far superior Lupita Nyong'O in the artistically much better 12 years a slave. No grand standing here, just great work! On the technical side the film is nothing special. The cinematography at times has a grainy look to it and it's definitely far too long. By the film's close I felt that I had aged with the two leads and lived the history.
  23. Nov 9, 2013
    From the eyes of a 16 year old. This is an extremely well done movie that was based off of true story. Please ignore anyone who gave this movie a rating anything lower than a six. Yes, the movie has a lot of racist remarks, but quite frankly it is also one the most realistic movies I have ever seen made about that time period. The only complaint I have is a few suggestive references that I felt were unnecessary and took away from the seriousness of the move. I recommend anyone willing, to go see it ASAP. Expand
  24. Oct 21, 2013
    Great acting but rank revisionist history. Seems to demonstrate more the writer's political philosophy than any actual fact. He needed a Whitehouse full of racists till the annointed one appears. When they didn't exist, he makes a racist when none exists. 5 for Forest Whitaker, 0 for Daniel Lee. Negatives for the horrible smear job it does on good leaders. And another negative for casting Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagon. Why not just cast a white supremacist as Malcolm X. Expand
  25. Oct 5, 2013
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. The Butler was a very good film, but it does have its flaws. I highly praise the performances of Forest Whitwaker, Oprah, and David Oyelowo. I also like how this filmed portrayed the past presidents of the United States. This movie actually had me rooting for Forest Whitwaker's character Cecil Gaines. A boy born in the 1920's that later became a butler for the White House. The only problem is Cecil Gaines ISN'T REAL. This story was real, but some of the characters and the events weren't. I didn't find out until after the movie some stuff wasn't real. David Oyelowo gave an amazing performance as the freedom fighting son of Cecil Gaines, Louis Gaines, but here lies another problem, he wasn't real either. Although Louis wasn't real, the events that he was involved in in this film were like the burning of the freedom bus. I highly praise the fact that Lee Daniels went out of his way to walk us through all the non-fictional events of this film and how Cecil Gaines had to go through them. Overall this was a good film but it kind of dragged on for a while during the end. Overall: 7.5/10 Expand
  26. Oct 1, 2013
    This movie is well done and Forest Whitaker gives a great performance, but I'm giving it a 1 because it just undeniably racist. Okay reference Obama great that's cool, first black president is a big deal I understand that. When you say that Reagan, one of the greatest presidents ever, was a racist...that pisses me off. There is no reason to have put that in the story. It's wrong and frankly just a low, pointless act of racism. White people can't do anything about it though but just wow, based a true story? Right, this is why racism still exists. Expand
  27. Oct 1, 2013
    Great story with unique vantage and fine actors, but too didactic and a bit contrived, as if Cecil were a black Forrest Gump. Makeup is horrific and got in the way of the film
  28. Sep 24, 2013
    The film tries to connect the history of race relations and the story of a family. It fails to do so. It trivializes and vulgarizes everything it touches. The cameo appearances backfire badly--Robin Williams and Alan Rickman are spectacularly miscast. Forest Whitaker is extraordinary, and his work redeems the family story but cannot do much for the political history. One critic has called The Butler more of a history lesson than a film. It utterly fails to do justice to our common and very different histories. Expand
  29. Sep 12, 2013
    I really liked this movie... It was well acted and had a great story attached to it. It was, however, sad to see such a self absorbed society that treated people so poorly. I must say that I find it inspirational how this man lifted himself above the reproach of such a cruel society. I was impressed with his moral out look and his tenacity to stay focused on importance of job and family even though he had to fight through much racism. This is a great movie. Expand
  30. Sep 10, 2013
    Great (true) story, great acting, great movie. I enjoyed Lee Daniels' the Butler very much. It's a fascinating film that will give you chills for sure. Anybody can enjoy this film, except for children of course. 8/10 MUST SEE!

Generally favorable reviews - based on 47 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 47
  2. Negative: 0 out of 47
  1. Reviewed by: Jenny McCartney
    Nov 20, 2013
    The Butler might bite off more history than it can chew, but it packs a sustained emotional punch, more than a pinch of wit, and a superb performance from Whitaker as a man burning with passion beneath his immaculate, repressed exterior.
  2. Reviewed by: Trevor Johnston
    Nov 12, 2013
    The result isn’t as powerful as it should be. But it’s still cheering to see a film whose moral journey has little to do with the usual Hollywood chestnut of white middle-class consciousness-raising.
  3. Reviewed by: Simon Braund
    Nov 11, 2013
    Manipulative and preachy, The Butler is redeemed by a sensitive performance from Forest Whitaker and the undeniable power of the events it depicts.